Privatising Singareni coal mines: TRS, trade unions reject PM’s statement

Published on Nov 19, 2022 12:10 AM IST

State social welfare minister Koppula Eshwar, who hails from Peddapalli district, said that Modi had made the statement only to mislead the people of Telangana.

All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Vasireddy Seetharamaiah also said the Modi government had made changes in the Mines and Minerals Development Regulatory Act in 2015 to allow commercial mining by private parties. (HT Photo)
All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Vasireddy Seetharamaiah also said the Modi government had made changes in the Mines and Minerals Development Regulatory Act in 2015 to allow commercial mining by private parties. (HT Photo)
By, Hyderabad

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi-led state government and coal mine trade unions have taken Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement that “there is no question of privatising state-run Singareni Collieries Company Limited” with a pinch of salt. Modi had visited the state last Saturday.

While dedicating the Ramagundam Fertilisers and Chemicals Limited (RFCL) to the nation at Ramagundam in Peddapalli district, the Prime Minister said: “The Centre had no authority to privatise the Singareni coal mines, as the majority stake was with the Telangana government and the Centre had only 49% equity in it”. “We have no intention either to privatise SCCL,” he had said.

However, the Telangana government, which has been accusing the Centre of conspiring to privatise Singareni coal mines, refused to believe the Prime Minister’s statement.

State social welfare minister Koppula Eshwar, who hails from Peddapalli district, said that Modi had made the statement only to mislead the people of Telangana and coal mine workers, who have been up in arms against the Union coal ministry’s move to auction four coal blocks adjacent to Singareni.

“His statement implies that just because the Centre is a minority stake holder, it has no powers to sell the company. Otherwise, it would have done it long ago. In fact, the auctioning of the coal blocks in Telangana is nothing short of privatisation,” the minister said.

All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Vasireddy Seetharamaiah also said the Modi government had made changes in the Mines and Minerals Development Regulatory (MMDR) Act in 2015 to allow commercial mining by private parties.

“So far, 240 coal mines have been identified to hand over to private persons. Of them 98 mines were already handed over to private parties,” he pointed out.

The Singareni coal mines are spread over Adilabad, Karimnagar, Khammam, and Warangal districts along the Godavari river belt. In August 2021, the Centre had decided to auction four coal mines adjacent to Singareni Collieries — Kalyan Khani block-6, Koyagudem block-3, Sathupalli block-6 and Shravanapalli — as per the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.

During the budget session of Parliament in February this year, Union coal minister Prahlad Joshi had said that an attempt was made to auction the four coal blocks of SCCL on December 15, 2021, but no bids were received from any private parties.

The Union minister had admitted that the Telangana government and SCCL management had written to the ministry for the outright allocation of coal blocks to Singareni on the ground that the existing mines of the company were exhausting coal reserves gradually. However, the coal ministry has decided that there is no need for such reservation of coal blocks to the SCCL, as it will become a precedent for others,” Joshi had said in Parliament.

In July this year, the Centre put up the four coal blocks for auctioning again, but only Koyagudem block in Yellandu in Bhadradri Kothagudem district was bagged by one bidder — MMDS Auro Coal Private Ltd — for mining for a period of 10 years.

“Legitimately, these blocks belong to Singareni, which should get them as a part of the expansion plans. But the Centre chose to privatise them through auction,” the trade union leader quoted above said.

Out of the 82 coal blocks in Telangana, only 40 are in the control of SCCL. “So, the remaining 42 blocks would be gradually handed over to the private parties in the coming years, as per the central government policy,” he said.

Union minister Prahlad Joshi, who was in Hyderabad on Friday, told reporters that Modi had categorically made it clear that the existing mines of Singareni Collieries would not be privatised. “The decision to auction the other mines has nothing to do with Singareni. If the SCCL wants any mines, it can also participate in the auction and bid for the same,” he said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Srinivasa Rao is Senior Assistant Editor based out of Hyderabad covering developments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana . He has over three decades of reporting experience.

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